MERLIN, Ore. – An autopsy Thursday morning determined that James Kim died of exposure and hypothermia, and had no physical injuries serious enough to kill him.

The time of death could not be determined, according to Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police. However, one of the SWAT team members on the scene told the San Jose Mercury News that it appeared from the condition of the body that Kim had not been dead long – perhaps hours, no more than a day.

Deputy Grant Forman, a member of Jackson County’s SWAT team, rappelled from a helicopter to help recover the body Wednesday afternoon, said it looked like Kim might have slipped and fallen on slippery, mossy rocks in the creek where his body was found.

“I don’t think he gave up until he died,” he said.

Kim had walked five miles along a road and five miles along the creek through a treacherous canyon by the time his body was spotted from a helicopter Wednesday, five days after he left his wife and children in their car to find help.

He was found face-up in water no more than 3 feet deep. The creek was about 20 feet wide, with a sheer rock cliff on one side and huge boulders and a steep hillside on the other; Kim was nestled among rocks in the creek, Forman said. Even though he had left a trail of clothing for rescuers to follow, Kim was still wearing several layers of clothing, including his brown jacket, gray sweater, jeans and tennis shoes.

“He was walking the creek when he slipped and fell,” Foreman said. If not for that fall, “he may have made it out.”

“He’s the most tenacious man – seven days in his car and hiked that many miles to get help for his wife and two little ones. With everything going on in the world, you have a man who will do everything to save his family. It’s just amazing.”

Forman, 33, had to make the dreaded radio call: “Mr. Kim is code 57.”

It would be a recovery, not a rescue.

Foreman added, “It was pretty devastating. I wanted what every person watching the news wanted – to see him walk out, or to help him and send him back to his family. Everyone wanted a happy ending.”

The recovery of Kim’s body ended an 11-day ordeal for the extended family of the Kims, who lost their way Nov. 25 on a mountain pass on their way home to San Francisco after spending Thanksgiving in Seattle.

Kati Kim, 30, had nursed their infant, Sabine, as well as their 4-year-old daughter, Penelope, for nine days before their station wagon was spotted Monday. James Kim left after seven days to seek help.

James Kim’s father, Spencer Kim – chairman of an aerospace corporation in Southern California – hired three helicopters to help the multi-agency search and prepared the care packages of warm clothing, food, flares and letters.

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